Westmont’s Beloved Pickle Tree to Be Removed

Kerrwood Lawn in the late 1960s

Kerrwood Lawn in the late 1960s

“Let all creation rejoice before the Lord” Psalm 96:13

A Stately Sight to Generations of Warriors

Long before Ruth Kerr drove onto the Dwight Murphy Estate and heard the Lord whisper, “This is the place,” the grounds featured a wide array of mature trees. Today, many overarching trees still provide shade for walkways serenely wending their way through campus. You likely remember the soaring redwood tree on Kerrwood Lawn. Its eccentric shape inspired the affectionate nickname Pickle TreeĀ  in recent years. In Westmont’s early years, it was one of about five redwood trees on the lawn. This is the last remaining of this set of trees.

In recent years, hundreds of alumni would gather around the Pickle Tree to kick off the Christmas season.

In recent years, hundreds of alumni would gather around the Pickle Tree to kick off the Christmas season.

This towering tree took root well before Westmont’s founding, but since then generations of students have lingered in the redwood’s shade.

Beginning in 2002, lighting the 115-foot tall tree became an annual Westmont Christmas traditionĀ  for alums, professors, staff members, students and local residents. The celebration featured caroling, playful new traditions and a Santa Claus for the children. After the 2008 Tea Fire blazed through campus, the college lit the tree in thankfulness that most of the campus remained intact despite losses from the fire.

Students gather for chapel under the giant redwood in the mid-'60s.

Students gather for chapel under the giant redwood in the mid-’60s.

An Urgent Safety Issue

Sadly, this stately tree must come down. For more than a decade the enormous tree suffered significant damage due to the drought. Longtime groundskeeper Phil Baker ’71 labored intensively with an arborist to prolong the life of the tree. During and following the drought, they inspected it and did deep-root fertilization as well as irrigation. But the drought inflicted too much damage, and the tree has died.

An aerial shot of the glowing Pickle Tree in 2015

An aerial shot of the glowing Pickle Tree in 2015

For some time, the condition of the tree has raised concerns about the safety of the campus community. Redwoods are brittle trees, and dead branches can break off and hurt people when they fall. The college must remove the tree quickly.

On June 17, crews will carefully take it down in six-foot sections. We hope to create commemorative items with the wood and donate some of it to artists for their use.

We Give Thanks

God has given the Westmont community daily evidence of his artistry and majesty on a campus so rich in natural beauty. We’re profoundly grateful.